Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

What Twitter Won't Tell You About the Election

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, February 8 2012

A new study released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press on Tuesday offers the opportunity to get real about what the political conversation on Twitter and Facebook can — or can't — tell you about the progression of the 2012 political campaign.

Pew has found that even among users of Twitter and Facebook, a paltry percentage of people use social networks to get news about politics: Only 24 percent of Twitter users in the sample and 25 percent of Facebook users said they "sometimes" got campaign news through that network, while a full 40 percent of Twitter users in the sample and 46 percent of Facebook users reported "never" getting campaign news through the network. Over half of the 1,507 respondents included in the survey results used some social network; fewer than 150 respondents reported using Twitter. Only 11 percent of respondents aged 18-29 reported getting regular campaign news from Facebook and 4 percent of that group had the same to say about Twitter; older respondents report getting even less news in this way.

In short: Hardly anyone who was on Twitter in early January used it to regularly have political conversations. This offers a possible explanation for why mining social media data for information about the "political zeitgeist" so closely follows the conventional wisdom of the moment — there are so few people on Twitter talking about politics on a regular basis that I would venture to guess that many of them are the same folks inventing that wisdom, on one side of a reporter's notebook or the other. That may change as the campaign swings from primary season to the general election; it might not. We'll have to wait and see.

Far more of those surveyed found their information through cable news. Among people who did get their news online, more respondents — 24 percent — said they looked first to CNN.com. Meanwhile, seven in ten voters, 72 percent, say they have seen or heard campaign commercials, per Pew.

In 2008, Brian Stelter quoted a market researcher saying that the stance of one college student was, "If the news is that important, it will find me." The Pew results indicate that in politics, if any news is finding Americans online at all right now, it must be very important indeed.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

More